Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Memorial

I realized I never posted much about the memorial service. Many friends have been asking how that went, how it worked and whatnot. And so, here you have it.

The family asked my friend Meredith and I to plan the reception end of the memorial. We wanted to make it extra special, to put a smile on the face of everyone as they walked in and revive a warm memory of Charlotte in their hearts. We covered the room in butterfly art donated by local children, created a butterfly chandaler to hang over a giant chocolate fountain brimming with fruit, pretzels and marshmallows (chocolate was one of Charlotte's very favorite things!). Rachel, Charlotte's mom, came up with the great idea of tying custom made M&Ms in to tiny organza bags with a tag "chocolate makes everything better." We had a balloon release that allowed children and adults alike to say one final goodbye by filling out a tag to attach to the eco-friendly balloon. We had tons of food. Crafts for the kids.  It was a great way for the children to express their grief creatively.There was even face painting donated by the local Stretch and Grow group. I know, weird, face painting at a memorial? But it was perfect.

It took a lot of planning, but was one of the best events I've ever done. And I've planned a LOT of events in the past. Why was it so great? Because of community. The Town of Ashland (Center of the Universe!),,, St. James the Less (especially their youth group - amazing kids!), Duncan Memorial and total strangers to the family who gave monetary and in-kind donations to help the Reynolds give Charlotte a send off that would give us all the strength to let her go. That's not to say it was without tears. There were tears. Many. But there were also smiles and laughter, memories and hugs. It was a beautiful gathering, overflowing with love and sadness simultaneously.

I think a writer for the Ashland Herald Progress captured the day extremely well with her blog post. It was a day no one wanted to arrive, an event no one ever wants to attend, but was a great moment of healing and a grand show of human compassion and of love.

What was the best thing to come from this tragedy was something that I hope the CJSTUF foundation can expand upon - creating an extended support network for a family in crisis. With new advances in technology these past several years (yes, social media, there, I said it) there are new opportunities for nonprofits to give back to their beneficiaries in nontraditional ways.

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